Every year an estimated $30 billion is spent by the United States on animal experimentation, despite the fact that we currently have a nearly $19 trillion and growing national debt in this country. Most of the U.S. tax dollars are funneled through the National Institutes of Health, NIH, a federal government agency, which allocates research grants to private corporations and major institutions of higher learning.

According to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine at www.pcrm.org, many of these experiments, which can last for decades, are cruel and unnecessary. Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Although information is not always readily available, efforts are being made to ascertain the scope of the problem in terms of monies being spent, safeguards for the animals, and the supposed benefits to human health. Members of the public are able to access information on the kinds of experiments that the NIH funds through its database at http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm. You can enter the name of the experimenter, the institution where the experiment is being conducted, the animal species of interest, the years of interest, the grants given by the NIH to various experimenters across this country and abroad, the amount of the grant, and a description of the nature of the experiment.

The amount of money the NIH uses to fund research in this country and abroad every year is staggering, but the descriptions of the experiments are minimal. You can use the Freedom of Information Act to get more detailed information on the many experiments being conducted, although FOIA requests reportedly involve considerable processing fees, which are not always waived out of non-commercial interest in the information requested.

The bigger problem that animal rights organizations face is the NIH’s system of awarding grants and the fact that proposals to do animal research are awarded money more readily than non-animal research proposals. PETA and other animal rights organizations have attempted to challenge the NIH on its funding of specific projects like cardiovascular experiments using dogs at Ohio State University, Wayne State University, and the University of Utah. Unfortunately, this is a case of the fox guarding the hen house as NIH officials are, in most cases, animal experimenters themselves. They are often loathe to criticize their own methods of scientific inquiry or value system.

Comedian and actress Lily Tomlin isn’t laughing about research at her alma mater, Wayne State University of Detroit, Michigan, which results in the death of dogs. Tomlin has publicly requested that Wayne State University immediately suspend the decades-old cardiology research trials on dogs, which the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has dismissed as cruel and lacking in scientific validity.

On its website, the physicians committee says the experiments are scientifically flawed and after two decades have failed to produce any medical advances offering hope to millions of Americans with heart disease. Despite this, the researchers continue to collect almost $400,000 a year in NIH funding. The research involves multiple surgeries, artificially induced heart failure, and forced runs on treadmills. The group reports that the surgeries are so invasive and dangerous that as many as 25 percent of the dogs die during or after surgery before the experiments are completed. As the usual practice in research laboratories, the dogs that make it through the experiments are killed.

Actress Kim Basinger has asked Georgia Regents University of Augusta, Georgia to stop dental experiments on dogs. A National Humane Society investigation in 2013 revealed the use of dogs in painful dental experiments at Georgia Regents University. Researchers pulled the dogs’ teeth, replaced them with dental implants, and later performed surgery to remove two small fragments of bone from their jaws. The animals were then euthanized. The use of dental implants has been firmly established in humans for years yet the federal government through the NIH continues to fund these unnecessary dental experiments on dogs.

According to the Awards by Location Funding section of the NIH website, Wayne State University received more than $35 million for research in 2015. Georgia Regents University received nearly $34 million for research in 2015. Ohio State University, which has reportedly conducted needless cardiovascular experiments on dogs for over 30 years, received about $91.6 million for research in 2015. The University of Utah, which has also been criticized for conducting unnecessary cardiovascular experiments on dogs, received almost $75 million for research in 2015.

The United States Department of Agriculture has regulatory authority over all research programs, but the Animal Welfare Act does not prohibit experiments, no matter how useless, painful, or wasteful. Taxpayer dollars are being used to fund activities that most taxpayers find ethically objectionable and a waste of money.

As the NIH is a public institution, so it must be held accountable to the taxpaying public. Contact your elected representatives in Congress and demand reform to ascertain good science from the wasteful use of taxpayer money in the business of often cruel animal experimentation of dubious medical value to human health.

— Val Philbrick works in the production department of the Journal Tribune as a pre-press person. She is a member of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.

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